I have some mixed feelings about this time of year. Growing up I always looked forward to Christmas and not just because of the presents when I was a kid. I come from a large family and there's a substantial age gap between the rest of my siblings and I. There's only a 6 year age gap between my eldest sister and the youngest of my older brothers... However, there's a 12 year age gap between the youngest of my older brothers and I. Growing up, my parents & I would drive to Viriginia to celebrate Christmas with my brother, Kevin, as he was usually unable to make it home for Christmas and then at Christmas the rest of my siblings came home. It always made for a fun, lively, and busy household at the holidays and it often stretched out Christmas a few extra days. As I got older instead of spending Christmas together. It turned into Christmas with my parents & I, and one of my brothers and his family. The rest of my siblings would do small Christmases with their family and then come into town on the 26th. We'd do a big dinner and then open the presents we'd got for one another. So that made for 2 days of Christmas. Given the age gap, I missed growing up with my siblings, and Christmas time was the one time of year when I got a sample of what it was like having them around.
On the flip side, the holidays have also been a time of loss. One night in December 1984, I was on the way home from school with my Dad. We stopped at Sherwin-Williams, don't know why, but they received a call from my Mom telling us to get home as soon as possible, there was an emergency. So we rushed home. My grandfather, who spent his days in the woods hadn't come home. His brother and some family friends had gone looking for him. He'd had a heart attack and hit his head on a tree as he fell to the ground. While he made it to the hospital, he didn't survive the evening. He was 74. Not young, but with me being just 7, my time with him was cut considerably shorter than the amount of time my older siblings had with him.
In November 1988 one of my cousins, only 19 years old, was killed in a car accident. He was only 7 years older than I was and I'd just seen him the previous month when he'd come home from his college in North Carolina for Columbus Day Weekend. I didn't know then that it would be the last time I'd see him alive.
In December 2001, I was celebrating Christmas with my then girlfriend and her mom and brother in Ohio. Working 2 retail jobs, I didn't have the time nor money to make it home for the holidays. A few days before Christmas I was told that my grandmother's health was failing. I later found out that she died in the early morning hours of December 26th. Unfortunately, I didn't make it home in time to say goodbye while she was still alive. I was the only one of my siblings who didn't have that opportunity. I did fly in for the funeral. And it was a beautiful experience. My grandmother was 93 when she passed away. She'd lived a good long life. Her funeral was a celebration of her life, not a mourning of her passing. It was also the first time all of my siblings and I were home at Christmas time in about 19 or 20 years. It was also one of the last times I saw my great aunt & uncle (my grandmother's younger sister and brother-in-law). Because I'd never known my Dad's father (he died when my Dad was only 17) and lost my other grandfather when I was only 7, my great uncle, Bob, was the closest I came to having and knowing a grandfather. I won't speak for my siblings, but I consider that to be my grandmother's final Christmas gift to us. And honestly it was one of the best, if not THE best Christmas gift I've ever received.